What is ‘bugging’ UAE residents the most?

The bedbug

Although a clear distinction must be made between pests causing damage to personal health or to property, at the top of UAE’s most unwelcome infiltrator is the bed bug.

“We receive a minimum of 10-12 phone calls a week from people asking for help to get rid of bed-bugs,” says Dinesh Ramachanbran, technical director of National Pest Control, a leading company in the UAE.

Bed bugs are known to be on the increase not only in this part of the world, but everywhere, due to rise in temperature. In the UAE, especially the summer season is prone to the 5 mm-long insect, and they are found in residences of every kind.

“The problem with the bed-bug is the infestation that can actually not be eliminated,” tells Jasmin Prabo, division head of the pest control division at Power Services. “We can contain the problem by providing continued pest control services, but the bed-bug will keep on laying eggs, and therefore not disappear. We have received an order from Dubai Municipality not to give any warranty of elimination.”

The bed-bug feeds itself with the blood running through our veins while we sleep, tells Dinesh. “Although the bed-bug is not known to transmit any diseases, it leaves behind itchy, red welts on the human body. Some people may suffer from anaemia due to a lack of iron as a result of bed-bug bites.”

Bed-bugs are brought into the house by people themselves; they stick to clothes or other personal items and once they are smuggled in easily find their way through your house. 

The cockroach

A deserved second place goes to the cockroach, the much-feared insect if it were only because of its ghastly appearance. “We receive about five calls a week from people asking for help to get rid of cockroaches,” indicates Dinesh.

Like bed-bugs, cockroaches also like the higher temperatures, and it is therefore not surprising that the insect is a common guest in many UAE residences. However, these creatures do not come to exploit the human body; it is rather the food they are looking for.

The cockroach likes everything that we like to eat, but is especially fond of sugar, carbohydrates, meats and oils. However, it likes the food a little over date, meaning that fresh food will probably remain unaffected.

So why to fear the cockroach? Well, the cockroach is likely to transmit bacteria, which it found on the leftovers it so much adored, and these bacteria may be left behind on the fresh food that we are yet to eat. Cases of food poisoning due to the presence of cockroaches are not uncommon.

The good news is that infestation of this pest can be eliminated, tells Jasmin. Besides asking for the help of a professional, people can decrease the chances of finding a cockroach themselves by not exposing any food and keeping trash behind closed doors. 

Termites

Operating on a whole other level and therefore not comparable to other pests, is the termite. The damage this insect can inflict is, however, huge.

“We can’t rank the termite between the previously discussed insects, because it does not pose any risk to human health. It inflicts damage to property,” says Dinesh.

The problem is on the rise in the UAE. “We encounter termite infestations in old as well as new buildings,” tells Dinesh, whose team needs to head out at least twice a week to tackle such infestations.

Most commonly found in the UAE is the subterranean termite. These creatures live in underground colonies, and find their way to your building through the smallest opening. Once they are in, their search for food – anything made out of wood - will lead them to eat furniture or other wooden fixtures from inside out.

Currently National Pest Control is looking at innovative ways to decrease the scope of the termite problem in the UAE. “Conventional ways of termite control include the use of highly toxic chemicals, which requires heavy drilling through floors. We are now preparing an early detection device, which people can place in their houses. And when termites are detected, a low toxic chemical will be applied to directly attack the colony,” explains Dinesh.

Rodents

“The problem with this kind of infestation is that it will become noticeable after the damage is done,” says Dinesh. Once the termite has done its job, most pieces of furniture are heavily damaged. “This insect can cost you a lot of money,” says Dinesh.

Rodents are too a little bit of an outsider in this list, but nonetheless noticed and feared by UAE residents. “Rodents are typically a challenge for commercial facilities,” says Dinesh.

Rats, the larger one of this kind, have increasingly been in the media because of the damage they inflict. In areas where rats are common car tires were reported to have been damaged because rats gnawed their way through them. “They have a habit of gnawing things when their teeth are growing,” explains Dinesh. “They even gnaw through concrete.”

However, the biggest problem with rats and mice is that these creatures carry around contaminating diseases, which can be transmitted to humans. Because of their attraction to food items, they contaminate this food with urine and faeces, explains Dinesh.

Rats and mice are drawn to food, and are therefore mostly found in food industrial buildings. “We do not receive a lot of phone calls for rodent treatment, only about 2 or 3 a month,” says Dinesh.

“People are usually scared of these animals, and they rather walk away from them. But in fact, they need to be battled because of the large health risks they bring along.”

Cats

Surprisingly, cats can be called pest, or even waste, as control of this animal falls under the responsibility of pest and waste control companies.

“Under the auspices of Dubai Municipality we carry out trap-neuter-release programs,” tells Dinesh. “This means that we trap stray cats and bring them to a vet, who will determine if the cat has any diseases. If this is not the case the cat will be neutered and released where it was found. If it does have a disease, it will be put to sleep, depending on the nature of this disease.”

Pest and waste control companies have a no-kill-policy when it comes to cats and are therefore targeting the limitation of a population growth rather than elimination of stray cats in Dubai.

However, the response of the public is mixed towards this approach. “We receive phone calls from people who are feeding these cats and are asking for help, while others are calling for the cats to be removed because they are bothered by them,” explains Abdul Ghaffar, operation manager of the Centre for Waste Management in Al Ain.

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